Mount Pleasant is, pleasantly enough, one neighborhood that hasn’t undergone massive rebuilding since I lived in the area almost 20 years ago.
Today, if I stand at the north side of the strip and squint past the white-folk (certainly more of them now), it could still be 1988; there’s still a lot of character here. Signs of “progress” in the neighborhood are refreshingly subtle: My old laundromat has been replaced by a newer, cleaner laundromat. But I still have fond memories of sitting on the washing machine to prevent that Crazy Homeless Kickboxer Guy from stealing my laundry in mid-spin cycle....
Crazy Homeless Kickboxer Guy is long gone, but one addition to the Mt.Pleasant strip is Marx Cafe, formerly a Mexican restaurant & mariachi venue. The bar’s signage is curiously invisible--You could walk right past the place without knowing it, unless it’s the last Friday night of the month, when Soundclash swells against the doors with a full spectrum of reggae tunes.
Soundclash began in 2002 as a collective effort of four DJs with a healthy obsession for Jamaican oldies: Sammy Gong, Kaiser, Rice ‘n’ Peas, and Paul (real names will not be used here, as it would double the typing involved. To hell with it). Paul left town for the greater sins of Las Vegas, and some three years ago, Bobby Babylon joined the ranks.
Friday, June 29th was the 5th anniversary Soundclash gig, and a great crowd had turned up, despite the lack of local online/media coverage.
“A great crowd”? Jeezus dude, by 11:30, you couldn’t get to the bar without assuming the role of a determined sperm, rushing an egg through a sea of spermy competitors. The Red Stripes were lukewarm, but who cares. DeKoninck was on tap, as always, and there was a special Jamaican rum brew, mixed for the occasion.
I’ve had my share of improvised rummy mixes ladelled out of spackle buckets, so I decided to pass on it here, but by the look of the crowd, it must’ve been working...
The tunes were plentiful: a mix of dancehall, roots reggae, and a smattering of gorgeous dub, pulled from albums, rare 7” singles, and CDs. The crowd seemed universally pleased. The limited edition, Sammy Gong-designed Soundclash t-shirts were sold out very quickly.
That t-shirt design is terminated, says Gong...There may be other shirts, but this one is history. Art is fleeting, just like life.
T-shirts, mix CDs, and Trojan Records box sets were dispersed at the midnight raffle, after which the tunes came roaring back. By this time, crowd density had made “movement” impossible. Bodies everywhere. Bodies dancing, nodding, gyrating, drinking, falling down in swirls of delirium, and plowing desperately through the undulating mass to find the newly renovated bathroom...
I made it until about 2:30am, at which time I realized I’m officially an old fart now, and late nights like this aren’t as easy as they used to be. There was a bed with my name on it, just a few blocks to the east. Damn that bed.
As for Soundclash, there’s no plan to stop the thing. For the forseeable future, you can catch the madness at Marx Cafe (3203 Mt.Pleasant St. NW) on the last friday of each month. Most times, the crowd isn't nearly as intense, but it's certainly worth the effort. Damn that bed.
BREAKING NEWS: 12:42pm: As it turns out, there were a few t-shirts left after the event. So you shoulda been there, bub. You'd have that shirt by now. How's that for accuracy in media, eh?